Recently, Slate author Nitish Pahwa excavated a number of retro fast-food employee training videos, with the likes of Pizza Hut, McDonald’s, and Wendy’s represented. Among them: A 1992 McDonald’s video in which NBA legend Michael Jordan lectures teenagers on the importance of burger prep.
Jordan appears in the opening moments of the video, in front of the kind of nondescript background you often find in high school yearbook photos. “I have something very new and special that I’d really like for you to see,” he says. (It’s not clear what the difference is between new and very new.) “It’s a video about satisfying the customer called Doing Whatever It Takes.
“Now you’ll probably wonder, what does Michael Jordan know about satisfying the customer?” Jordan asks rhetorically, before likening basketball fans to patrons. “When you put on your McDonald’s uniform, your customers want more than just quick service and a smile. They expect to be treated as a guest in your home.”
Jordan was, of course, a longtime McDonald’s spokesperson. Even so: Considering training videos usually feature unrecognizable actors, why would Jordan do this? Over his career, he earned an estimated $1.7 billion in endorsements with companies like Nike, Wheaties, and Hanes. McDonald’s undoubtedly contributed a portion to that haul, so what’s a few minutes to shoot an intro to a video no one but McDonald's employees will see? (Until YouTube preserves it in perpetuity.)
Jordan, who was born in Brooklyn but raised in North Carolina, had his first encounter with McDonald’s as a high school senior. In 1981, he was selected to play in the McDonald’s All-American Game, which was sponsored by the Golden Arches. In 1991, the chain unveiled the McJordan Special, a modified Quarter Pounder. In some North Carolina locations, the price was reduced by 1 cent for every point Jordan scored during Friday night games. In 2022, the company sponsored 23XI Racing, a Nascar team co-owned by Jordan.